Anytime an already-dangerous FCIAC team enters a new season having lost only two players from the previous year, chances are that the expectations will be very high.

This holds true in the case of the New Canaan softball team, which only graduated a pair of seniors (Jamie Kuhn and Katie Krueger) from the 2012 campaign and keeps nearly its entire starting lineup intact.

"I think our goal is to just play as hard as we can and perform to the level we know we can," captain and third baseman Marlee Ready said. "We want to leave everything out on the field, and hopefully make it far in states and FCIACs and hopefully win."

This year, the Rams boast a quintet of captains, who seem fully intent on competing for titles.

"I think we can be a very hard team to beat," captain and second baseman Courtney Rogers said. "The FCIAC is really competitive and I think we can compete because we're a strong team, we've been playing together for a long time and we have really good team chemistry, which is definitely going to help us in the long run."

"(Familiarity with teammates is) really nice and it really helps with our collaborative aspects. Just being able to know everybody kind of helps with the comfort level," captain and shortstop Brittany Overacker said. "Definitely being able to work together and kind of knowing everyone's strengths and weaknesses lets us help each other out."

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Due to her team having such a small turnover from the previous season, fifth year coach Danielle Simoneau is quite confident that she has most of her starting nine in place, though where they will play in the field remains a matter of conjecture.

Simoneau identified the following players as likely Opening Day starters: Sydney Ventura, Jordan Ventura, Ali Reilly, Ready, Rogers, Overacker, Colette Pellegrini and Amanda Frattorolli.

"It's huge (only graduating two players). They all know each other's strengths and it's just going to improve the program even more," Simoneau said. "We want to go deep into FCIACs and deep into states."

Among the many important returnees this season are sisters Cydney and Jordan Ventura, who are likely to spend most of their time at pitcher and catcher, respectively.

"I think we'll do just fine because we have strong hitters, and we have seven seniors on the team who have been playing with each other for a long time," captain and pitcher Cydney Ventura said. "We've had tough games with Darien and some of the other top teams in the FCIAC, and we've been pretty close. So I think this year is our time to shine."

The Rams believe one of their biggest strengths is their familiarity with one another, as many team members have been playing together since Little League age.

"I think we could work on communication because a lot of times we get confused on where we're going in the infield and outfield," captain and catcher Jordan Ventura said. "Half of us have been playing together since we were 10, so we have an advantage there. I think we're a good team defensively; we just need communication."

Last season's No. 8 seed in the FCIAC tournament, New Canaan is looking to climb the ranks as it prepares to go toe-to-toe with some of the conference's most powerful lineups, including Darien, Westhill and St. Joseph.

"I think we've got the fundamentals down, and as long as everyone stays confident, I think we can be a very good hitting team," Cydney Ventura said. "I'm looking forward to Darien and Ludlowe." Twitter: @jchik17